Review: Compete

Earlier this week, I sat down and wrote for about 40 minutes about hacked sites, then promptly lost that post forever because my webhost’s database machine was pokey right then. My fault for running Firefox 1.5 on my laptop instead of 2.0. WordPress 2.1 will also have autosave built in. My breath is definitely bated for the WordPress autosave feature. I tried not to let my inner snark out, but it’s been a couple days, so I figure I’ll let out just a little bit of grump.

Battelle mentioned a new metrics company / search engine called Compete. Yahoo! provides most of the backend power. What added value does Compete provide? Well, the search results have little icons beside them for things like spyware/phishing, coupon codes, and how popular the site is. How accurate is the spyware/phishing data? Well, for my site, I get a warning exclamation point and this message:

Use caution in providing any personal information or downloading software on

I’m not a spyware/phishing site, and my site has been around for over a year. So with a sample size of one, how accurate is that data? Not very.

Okay, how about offers or other deals? Compete says that they’re the “first service to identify available deal codes as you enter a retail website.” I can honestly say that of all the people I’ve talked to, I don’t remember anyone asking “Why don’t you tell me in the search results whether a site offers coupon codes?” I tried a search like [coupon codes] and none of the results triggered as offering promotion codes. So I did the search [fat wallet], and isn’t listed as having any deals or coupon codes. That doesn’t seem right.

Let’s talk about Compete Picks. The idea behind the feature is for a search, Compete looks at the results and if there’s a lot of post-click page views or other activity on a site, then that site might be a better match. So for some queries, you’ll see “Compete Picks” where Compete thinks the results are especially helpful.

Except: go back to the search [coupon codes]. The Compete Picks are video game cheat codes, which are completely off-topic. And for [fat wallet], the three Compete Picks that I got for that query were “Bbw plumpers, Bbw mature thumb galleries,” “Fat Chicks in Party Hats,” and “Fat Face”:

Compete's Picks for fat wallet

That’s just obviously wrong.

Am I being too harsh on Compete? I’m guessing so–after all, I’m getting some snarkiness out. But on their launch announcement they claim to be the “first social search solution leveraging community click-stream information to enhance search results.” Really? Because Danny Sullivan wrote about DirectHit in 1998, and I distinctly remember when DirectHit leveraged community click-stream information for HotBot back in the day.

So what’s left? Metrics. That whooshing sound you hear is all the SEOs going to install the Compete Toolbar. Compete claims 2 million users help it compute metrics, and I’d be very surprised if all those participants were toolbar users. Yep, digging through the FAQ, they mention “ISP relationships,” which presumably means that they’re buying user data from ISPs. ISP relationships can be a huge source of metrics bias. For example, some ISPs partner with Yahoo, and users on those ISPs are probably more likely to visit Yahoo. Other ISPs partner with Google. And savvy users that use smaller providers such as Covad or Speakeasy are likely not counted at all.

Because you don’t know which ISPs are selling user data to companies such as Compete or Hitwise, you don’t know what biases are baked into those companies’ metrics–and the metrics companies won’t tell you. Maybe I’m cynical about metrics lately, but Rand Fishkin looked into this recently. He got data from 25 blogs (including mine) and then compared that data with a bunch of metrics services (including Compete). His conclusion? “Based on the evidence we’ve gathered here, it’s safe to say that no external metric, traffic prediction service or ranking system available on the web today provides any accuracy when compared with real numbers. … The sad conclusion is that right now, no publicly available competitive analysis tool we’re aware of provides solid value.” Go read his post–it’s a good one.

I don’t think Compete is even the first Bill Gross search company to look at using click data. This review of quotes a previous version of Snap’s about page, and it sounds pretty familiar:

“Instead of just relying on computer algorithms to rank search results, Snap also uses click-stream information from a network of one million Internet users. By recording and processing which Web sites users spend time on, and which sites they quickly leave, Snap improves the likelihood that the search results you get will be the results you’re really looking for.”

You have to ask what Compete brings to the table if already tried using clickstream data. Okay, I’ll stop. It’s cool that Compete is trying new ways to inform their users with different icons. I like that they link to their blog from their main page. And it’s nice that they offer free metrics for sites. I just wish I had more confidence in Compete’s metrics, and I wish I knew which ISPs they get data from. To the folks at Compete, I’ll try to be in a more positive mood the next time we meet.

72 Responses to Review: Compete (Leave a comment)

  1. LMAO!

    I haven’t seen Fat Chicks in Party Hats for years. Gotta love it!

    I saw this for the first time this morning and I can’t see it taking off. As you pointed out, the Compete picks are irrelevant, and in a number of cases a subpage outranks a root for a query on a domain itself!!!

    (That’s one example…there are many others.)

    By the way, Matt, you don’t need to apologize if you feel you’re being snarky. We all get that way sometimes…it’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Occasionally you have to reach deep inside of yourself, find your inner can of whoopass, take it out, open it up, and serve it to the bastards who so richly deserve it.

    To be honest with you, I wish you’d do it more often.

  2. yep you where gumpy, but then I can’t see you giving a search engine other than google a glowing report really 🙂


  3. All searches I did proved to be innacurate and lame. Not only is the interface not informative, but the information they DO give has no correlation (as you have shown above).

    I am not impressed, at all, nor will I ever use their service again. Quite honestly, I feel the same way about things like Alexa/Hitwise/etc. Their ‘statistics’ really prove nothing, because they are using a biased sampling. I would NEVER even think to use those statistics, or even show a client.

    Thanks for the great review, if I were to write a review for I would have written the same things.

  4. Matt… isn’t the ranking of results based upon time spent on a page an infringement upon a previous Google Patent ??

  5. you didn’t even mention the “snapshot” feature and how cludgy it is.

    For one.. why do I use the same box to search for terms and view a snapshot of a site… i had no idea that’s what it was until I got an error first. One input, 2 functions may work on an Ipod wheel, but not on the web.

    Also, it’s numbers are WAY off… it estimates 14,000 unique people have visited , yet google analytics says 8,000 unique people have visited it yesterday and today alone. Those numbers don’t make sense.

    To show up as trustworty you have to have Geotrust, TrustE, entrust, or hacker safe verify your site. A lot of those y ou have to pay (and truste is a pain, I’ve done it before) and what’s an insufficient site history?? is approaching 2 years (with the same design) and that’s insufficient?

    It’s page views are off too. It says 5.8 for noslang, but it’s closer to 4… so not really that off I guess.

    so yeah… these metrics suck, and the interface is confusing. Speaking of off results, searching for internet slang I get a phillipino tv network, and a branson hotels site… then the #1 and #2 results show the same page twice in a row…

    ok i’ll stop there.

  6. Looks like the warning “Use caution in providing any personal information or downloading software on…” may be caused by the lack of a security certificate on your site.

    Nice try on their part, but very lame results. I’m glad you posted your review (the “fat wallet” results are too funny) although I’m afraid that I missed the “rant” part of your review – I guess I’ll have to read it again more closely…

    Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Yep, i’m one of those SEOs swooshing to download the Compete toolbar. why? because all of our clients like the Alexa rankings and I think Compete rankings will be better. Honestly, so what if they’re stats are wildly wrong right now…. I don’t think Google had the best search results when they first launched. it’s the idea that counts. what idea or foundation will they build upon. Alexa only grabs stats from toolbar users. Compete is attempting to draw a wider range of data. I think it’s a good idea and i hope they can improve their stats, gather more data and make for a decent ranking tool for all those non-techies to rely on.

  8. Thanks for the review Matt. Not sure if you saw it, but I took Rand’s study a bit further, showing that a random thing like URL length was a better indicator of traffic than Alexa, Compete, etc. You can read it here:

  9. Regarding the caution-symbol: Working or not YET working is one thing — but sooner or later you can assume that someone is going to get one working “good enough”. Is Google looking at anything similar? I’ve spotted the Google “this site has malware” warning page a few times (errrrhm, mostly in the wrong places) – or do you hope that the algorithm will automatically lower the rank of sites you think might be “bad”? What about good sites that were hacked and spread virii/malware?

  10. WordPress 2.1?

    When will that come out?

    I copy all of my post before saving or publishing just in case. Had lost mine also after spending lots of time writing it.

    Hey Matt, what’s the plugin name for your comments captcha?

  11. “And for [fat wallet]…”

    Here’s the problem – it should have been with a ph. Phat wallet 😉

  12. I just sent a note to Matt and thought I would share it with the group. (Note: On second read I modified some of the text from the orginal email)


    I just read the post and think you make several good points. Like so many things, will evolve. We are aware that there are significant areas of improvement, but we felt we had something valuable that the market could use today (primarily SnapShot). The development of Compete Search was an ancilliary effort that we tackled after we identified the opportunity to incorporate additional data points to help people pick the best search result – it too will evolve and improve.

    Compete is very realistic…. All third party metrics have their issues, but Compete has the largest and most diverse data set and by opening up we’re hoping to exponentially improve on this advantage… Compete is good – arguably the best – at reporting U.S. traffic to the upper half of the internet tail. Reporting on the lower half of the tail is difficult and requires a larger data set. By opening the data and offering a transparent mechanism to contribute (ie. Compete Toolbar) we can create a viable solution for small and large publishers alike.

    As far as Search goes, it’s a nice to have that will likely never show up on Google or Yahoo’s radar, but we have the opportunity to build some interesting tools, so we’ll continue down the path and look forward to winning you over down the road.

    Have a good one… Again, thanks for taking the time to review the service. All comments will certainly make it our think tank room.

    Best, TJ

  13. “Yep, i’m one of those SEOs swooshing to download the Compete toolbar. why? because all of our clients like the Alexa rankings and I think Compete rankings will be better.”

    Are you kidding me? Thats your reasoning for using it? Clueless clients who like to see stats that are so off balance? No offense, but thats the lamest reason I have ever heard. Sounds like a complete and total cop out from painting a REAL picture of the results of your work. Relying on alexa stats, or even is completely unprofessional – it does not paint a real picture by any means.

    Alexa for example. Only installs on toolbars in IE, and not even available to Mac users. Are you serious? You use that as an honest gauge of your traffic?

    You are going to have trouble with things in the future if you are baking on these services. Things like RSS are already showing why you need to look at YOUR stats of your website, not what some other organization paints.

    As for, and even the response to Matt – It will take A LOT to win many people over (except the above person and alexa). There are so many flaws, why would I even stick around or check back? There is no value there to me, and I would never listen to a client who spouts of statistics from your website. Things are so off base now, how are things magically going to get back on track in the future? I would never download the toolbar (nor would the majority of people I know, in and outside of IT). There are enough toolbars, there are enough people trying to emulate what others are already doing perfectly well. The interface is clunky. The results are so far skewed. Even the responses from the search are horrible. Sorry, it just looks like a pathetic attempt in my book….

  14. As harsh as Nate K’s comments were, they echo my sentiments exactly.

    TJ, your biggest problem is that your primary metric is going to come from the SEO community, and people such as Jim Keough who become obsessed with the metric as a singular point of success a la Alexa. The precedent in this regard has been established, and it is dangerous…SEO-types can’t be trusted in this regard not to spike the results (or to get their clients to unwittingly do the same and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

    If you’re going to do something like this, you’d be better off using a Nielsen ratings setup whereby users are prequalified before they can use the toolbar/scanner/associated device. It still won’t be perfect, but at least it won’t be subject to SEO/webmaster skew.

    Personally, I wouldn’t use your search because the relevancy isn’t there, it’s not your database (why wouldn’t I just use Yahoo!’s instead?) and because of the bizarre “Compete Picks” Matt pointed out.

    If you get your own database, produce more relevant search results and you somehow avoid SEO/webmaster skew, you may find a larger market. Until then, this is just another in a long line of search engine ideas/concepts that will get sucked into the proverbial toilet.

  15. Ouch, that’s harsh. I wrote about Compete AND Quantcast just last night in Alexa Gets Competition. Compete and Quantcast are openly U.S.-based. That sucks for sites like Simpy, which offers several localized versions, so that non-U.S., non-English-speaking people can use it, too.

  16. if you want to make a better search engine, give me more power.

    Let me search for regular expressions
    Let me search for capitalization (i still want to do a # of results for Internet vs internet)

    let me tell you if my search is transactional, informational, or navigational and show me results based on that….or remove certain categories of results.

    Give me the option to NOT include blogs or any other free content sites in my results.

    Give me the choice of whether or not I want wikipedia to show up top 5 for everything – that gets annoying.

    Number the results for me.

    Give me the option to compare my search with another search engine(s) of my choice.

    Give me the ability to union / intersect various search engine’s results.

    show me the date a site was last updated right in the results so I don’t see 4 year old ballot propostions by searching for stuff like “michigan proposal 2” because currently, all the results are about gay marriage instead of affirmative action.

    that should give you enough to mull over for a while 🙂

  17. Wow, really interesting views in this post, I’ll stay out of this one other than to throw out a few points

    1. I totally forgot how funny Fat Chicks in Party Hats is.
    2. Any site that rates your trustworthiness on Geotrust, TrustE, entrust, or hacker safe seems somewhat untrustworthy.
    3. Did anyone mention that the results just suck?
    4. pepernut and tinybeast. they live in my pants and say secrets to me. hello!

    Wow I totally forgot how funny and wrong that site was, the rest of my day is shot.

  18. Nate,

    We really aren’t bad guys… We have a lot of information people are asking for. People are asking for an alternative to Alexa. People are asking to have access to normalized measurement at a price they can afford (ie. free) and Compete is the first one to step up and respond.

    It’s not for you, and that’s fine, but many others have been asking for an alternative. See John Battelle’s blog only a few days ago – he’s one of them.

    We actually do self select our monthly data set similar to Nielsen… We employ filters that identify people exhibiting abnormal behavior and remove them from the data set.

    I agree that there are a lot of toolbars in the market and we’ll have to continue finding ways to create value. However, the toolbar is only one of several sources of input, so our numbers are not dependant solely on toolbar users (unlike Alexa).

    Again, I really do appreciate the time you guys took to rant and rave (mostly rant in this case). We take all of this feedback very seriously. I’m leaving tomorrow for S.F., so this will be my last post on the topic for a few days.

    Thanks.. I appreciate the forum.

  19. I’m actually quite amazed at this… they havn’t really done anything wrong other than being a bit naff. Okay fair point they labelled your site as potentially harmful but other than that their only crime appears to be that their service simply isn’t all that good.

  20. I must say i am really suprised you even let it bug you this much … is it because of Gross?

    Good rant thought, i really enjoyed it…all points are valid and it really is second rate, I would be shocked if it is still around in a years time.

  21. TJ Mahony
    I think the rant was more aimed at services like these which crop up every now and again and make stupid claims… how can a sample of 1 to 2 million users be offset aganist the hundreds of million of net user habits, you should know that given the highly variable amount of user habits that it would never be accurate.

    Services like these need to just quit .. it isnt going to work unless you have every single web user accounted for… or at very minmum 95%

  22. OK TJ, I believe you’re a nice guy, and deep inside you have some good ideas (or intentions) but nice guys should be careful when boosting so much and presenting so little effciency 😉

    If you think brings bad results (in English), try it in a different language!!!!!
    It’s almost colonialist! (It mostly returns pages writen in English where you find search terms of the language you used)

    TJ, can your team please post a warning:


  23. It’s not perfect, but it’s already the best of the public stats trackers. Why? Because the sample size is bigger. I’ll take the bias of letting ISP data drive stats over the bias of letting folks who have downloaded the Alexa toolbar drive stats. ISP data is far more representative, for obvious reasons. Alexa’s traffic ratings are so far skewed to the technical SEO community that they are utterly meaningless. And because they’re skewed to the technical community, Alexa stats are trumpted over and over again by those same technical folks as testament to the massive traffic of their sites.

    (my guess is that the negative reaction to Compete from the SEO community is partly driven by the fact that the sites belonging to these folks look far worse in snapshot.compete than they do in Alexa.)

    Does anyone really think that WebmasterWorld – one of my favorite sites on the Web – is the number 233 ranked site on the Web? Alexa does. Does anyone think the fabulous is a top 1300 site in terms of traffic? You get my point. These are niche sites, targeting a tiny fraction of the online population – the same population that knows what Alexa is.

    I think the presence of Alexa as the only public stats tracker did a real disservice to the webmaster community. Sites that no “regular person” has ever heard of are awarded Alexa kingpin status, just because of the SEO’s with Alexa toolbars who visit them. It just adds to an unhealthy lack of self awareness between (pick one) the webmaster / seo / web 2.0 / silicon valley crowd, and everybody else. In a nutshell, Alexa’s wildly misleading stats catering to those of us who have an Alexa toolbar is just an incestuous, borderline corrupt relationship of convenience.

    My advice to Compete is to buy every buyable bit of ISP data, build the largest sample size of web surfers, put an asterisk next to every toolbar downloaded in the last 48 hours, and start moving us towards transparent public stats. In other words, keep doing what you’re doing.

    Either that, or Google Analytics should add a “make my stats public” checkbox, and reward participants with a nice PR8 inbound.

    One final note on Rand’s study – it’s a great effort, by why limit the participating sites to such a narrow niche of seo / tech blogs? Rand, why not do a part II and solicit data from all walks of sites? I’d be happy to help you round up a diverse sample.

  24. If it was just a new search engine with sucky results, I think we’d all cut them some slack – Rome wasn’t built in a day. The metrics are unreliable, but at least they’re free. Maybe they’ll get better in time too.

    But what annoys me, and I guess most posters here, is the way they casually defame many perfectly honest sites on the basis of a deeply flawed “trustworthiness” methodology. Meanwhile bastions of trust and honesty like Geocities and Myspace pass with flying colours.

    If they want any kind of good press, I suggest they remove this “feature” PDQ. After all, any potential reviewer is going to start off by searching for his own site, find his trustworthiness called into question, and get, erm, snarky.

  25. People are just trying to own the network like Google currently does but in less quality ways. Compete is another lame attempt.

  26. Sometimes we can’t help but be bugged by sometimes the smallest of things. I guess we have our expectations set way too high thinking that everyone and everything will cooperate with what we want to do.

    Letting off a little steam now and again will keep the billy from boiling over. 🙂

  27. I agree with Matt. I have three sites that have existed for +4 years. We sell stuff online; and these guys have the gall to say that ‘use caution in … personal information’ on all the sites.

    Where do these guys get off in providing warnings because they computed not enough people come to my sites? Is there any evidence of fraud on my sites? Not thatI know of. This is the stuff of slander lawsuits if you ask me.

    I have my moments where I think MATT’s employer has finaly addled their employees brains with the constant algorithm changes. But recommending caution without displaying why is something I doubt they would ever do. Well I certainly hope that is true. Why Yahoo is party to this I have no idea.

  28. First social search solution leveraging community click-stream information to enhance search results

    The key Term may be SOCIAL SOLUTION…..DirectHit was just using Click Tracking – here is an analysis

    For example, some ISPs partner with Yahoo, and users on those ISPs are probably more likely to visit Yahoo. Other ISPs partner with Google

    This would probably depend on whether the ISP forced their users Homepage to be set to Yahoo – and the casual – one person household – users, did Not know or care enough to change it.

    But it would really be difficult to assert with credibility that the ISP can influence most users long term – usually within a household there are users with varying levels of expertise.

    It would appear that the careless users who unknowingly install toolbars and adware and spyware are more influenced by THAT – than they are by their ISP.


    Give Compete a chance to ….Compete 😐 . It will be tweaked and optimized – but they must add their piece to the collective puzzle.

  29. I think Compete is a step in the right direction in their attempt to get a larger, more diverse sample size of data via ISP data. This will hopefully result in a less technical skew than say Alexa.

    (Matt, any reason my comment was deleted? Believe it or not, I spent a long time on that thing. I checked your TOS again, and didn’t see anything that I violated)

  30. I’m not convinced that prodding Compete for not providing information about how its metrics are collated is entirely fair. Google goes to great pains not to tell anybody how its algorithms work (quite right too, BTW), so why do you expect Compete to document how theirs works?

  31. not sure will Compete do any good in future.

  32. Just looking at, which looks like their website to promote their research services. Clients include some heavy weights – INCLUDING **Google** (, *Yahoo* (, *MSN* (

    I think they’re here to say. Kudos for them for making this data available at no charge.

    (Matt: I hope you do not moderate this comment out)

  33. DaveN wrote:
    yep you where gumpy, but then I can’t see you giving a search engine other than google a glowing report really

    Au contraire. I’ve often seen Matt give the thumbs up to aspects of other engines.

    Matt. My impression of you is that you are an honest person, who doesn’t talk publically about things that you think are not right (except spam, of course) even when it might be in the readers’ interests to know about them. That’s an honourable trait, but it’s no less homourable to have a public rant now and then when the subject actually merits it. I’m not in the slightest bit interested in the topic of your post (Compete), but I wanted to say “well done” for writing it!

  34. Damn! How did that “(Google Groups)” get in there? I need to wake up 🙁

  35. “Are you kidding me? Thats your reasoning for using it? Clueless clients who like to see stats that are so off balance? No offense, but thats the lamest reason I have ever heard. Sounds like a complete and total cop out from painting a REAL picture of the results of your work. Relying on alexa stats, or even is completely unprofessional – it does not paint a real picture by any means.” by Nate K

    Please don’t put words in my mouth. I’m not “obsessed” and i don’t “rely” solely on alexa or compete rankings. Sounds like you ONLY know the tech side of things I don’t have the real world understanding of selling/marketing seo services to non-techy clients. Bottomline, i think a ranking system like alexa is good concept and i think compete is going in the right direction to improve the results. Yes, their information sucks now, but i hope it will get better as they broaden their information base.

  36. We need to wake up! Give some credit to You Tube and Google got soo popular. How? Only the future will tell.

  37. Sorry, but I agree with the comments about the “trust” results. I’m an absolute bear about protecting client information and all the company’s web stats/records go through me. Yet, they have the warning listed for my site as well. I’m not impressed at all.

  38. WOW Many Thanks! – I have been searching for Fat Chicks in Party Hats forever!

    compete gui presentation is ok and somewhat innovative.. but the results just plain suck.. and i spent plenty of time testing it with different subjects / keywords

  39. don’t have the real world understanding of selling/marketing seo services to non-techy clients.

    You may wanna rethink that one, dude. 😉

  40. that’s funny.. I sold seo for a whole year before taking a real programming job, and I never mentioned pagerank or alexa.. I always said “we’ll bring you more targeted visitors from search engines, and increase your sales”

  41. It seems that Compete is on the right path. The problem I see with engines that rank sites based on user preference is that the sites at the top will keep getting ranked and the sites lower down may never get ranked and will never rise. It feels a little bit like the “rich getting richer” idea. I see the advantage of pushing a junk site down, but what about a good site that is never found, or pushed to the top of the rankings, because no sees it to rank it?

  42. The post be might irrelevent but “Use caution in providing any personal information or downloading software on” relates with one more thing. There is a urban legend that to get personal site in google fast just leave a comment on Matt Cutts blog with your sitelink and if you dont delete that it really works. Is that true? (FYI my site isnt in google yet and you will delete this post anyway). But people those have similar beliefs wont belive compete and would rather prefer leaving comment this way or that way here.

  43. Just regarding the search facility, anything that cannot even distinguish porn from a relevant site deserves no further investigation in my eyes.

  44. Download and install a what?

    Just what the world needs another thingy (highly technical term) to keep updated, get exploited, or go rogue.

    Toolbar free and that’s how it should be.

    Matt, your site desn’t do driveby installs as far as I can tell, so give them the what for.

  45. I think that the whole concept of combining social aspects with search is a bad idea. If left to itself we’d end up with a search engine that would only bring up porn for all searches 🙂


  46. interesting follow up to this post on threadwatch:

  47. It is just like all the other search engine results, BOGUS. How come fat wallet does not come up? Are they penalized? Now to my point, Is GOOGLE so accurate? It has big problems as well. Google says There’s almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. Bull!!!!!! I had someone a competitor I think, purchase links for me on other spammy link websites and my rankings went down in Oct. of 2005 I spent hours in forums, blogs researching what happened. It took me two months to find out what was wrong, then I had to email all those webmasters and try to get my links removed and I still have not got in touch with all of them. This happened more than 1 year ago and I still have not show up for any results. I guess because I can’t contact all webmasters. But to the point this is bull crap. So before doggin on other search engines make sure yours don’t have any problems. PLEASE!!!

  48. One more thing I forgot. Does anyone think it is weird that got a page rank 7 in record time, and had big success? This is and always was bogus. Google has more to do with the search results than they think.

  49. Now that is simply untrue, Geoffrey!

    You completely ignored gambling, becoming a millionaire while eating Cheesies in an old armchair working on a 486 in your underwear, and male penis enlargement.

    Now don’t you just feel silly? 😉

  50. Since we don’t have anything better then now also, we have 2 rely on their info. But this does not mean that they are reliable: just some guidelines.
    Anyway, comparing the results between the ranking given by and 2 the same 2 websites, the difference was so huge… I don’t quite know what 2 think about it…

  51. Matt have you had a chance to review Rand’s (great!) SEOMOZ blog traffic study? Alarming that so many are putting stock in Alexa and other traffic reporting that appears to be totally unreliable.

  52. Snark on, dude!

    I have to commend you on your recollection of Direct Hit, as it started just about the same time as Google. I was one of the founders of that company (I ran engineering). We never though of ourselves as doing “social engineering”, as that term had not yet been coined — for us, it was all about “making loads of money” which was the primary social objective in 1998 :-). Plus, by 1999, search was deemed “dead” by anyone who was anyone (including Danny S.). Apparently it’s “not dead yet” and perhape even “getting better”.

    I recall that after reading the original Google algo online, I sniffed “that’s a silly idea — Direct Hit will kill Google”. Indeed, I felt at the time that the main issue with Google was how easy it was to spam it (the term “spam” was just being coined). While I wasn’t entirely wrong, I do concede that Google currently holds an estimable lead over Direct Hit’s technology. Hey, it could still happen: (who bought us in 1999) still holds our patents, and they are sure doing a lot of advertising lately 🙂

    Anyway, as to “Compete”, they may have a fine idea, but as I suspect you and your team know best of all, it’s not really about the idea, it’s about how well you execute it. Looks like there’s some work to be done yet on their part.

    I continue to be amused at how frequently people with MBAs (and not much else) believe and are able to get investors (more MBAs) to believe in their ideas; it doesn’t seem like anyone really pays attention to how the better mousetrap will actually be built.

    Snark on! But actually the little glyphs that classify a site aren’t such a terrible idea.


  53. I looked at compete and found that the Caution icon was total isleading and not at all accurate. It’s just a technique for trying to help geotrust gain market share.

    That in my opinion is all the poor execution of an idea that I need to see.

  54. Ouch…talk about a bad hair day…Lewis Carroll watch out…the Snark is out and about…and thank heavens for Google math:

    “4 + 10 = 14

    More about calculator.

    Search for documents containing the terms 4+10.”

    And guess what?

    Results 1 – 10 of about 6,320,000,000 for +4+10. (0.11 seconds)…now that is REALLY some math…

    Thanks as always Matt..take it easy Dude…


  55. Ha!

    My site’s been around since late 1997 and it still gets the download warning. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that I persist in publishing warnings about just about every 419 mail, phishing mail and lottery scam that slips through my spam filters… Must be fishy…

  56. No Matt your were really very nice I will say what you nereded to say.

    After taking a look at the site to me Complete it a Complete waste of time.

    1-If the ss is not in the total domain then it is not trusted. This is totally wrong and misleading.

    2-Using Alexa as a traffic inducator in another complete waste. Unless you have allot of webmasters with ego’s coming to the site as most of them will have the stupid thing downloaded.

    3- Search is off as well worthless.

    I feel it won’t be long till they get suied for the trust factor being so wrong.

  57. “Fat Chicks in Party Hats”
    File under: the joys of random discovery.

  58. In the few tests that I did searching on Compete, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I found its pure search results more accurate than Google on the terms I tested. Way better. That isn’t really Compete though as it says the results are provided by Yahoo. So then I looked at the little icons about the sites in the search results. I also found those to be accurate. So this is definitely a site that I’ll watch. It also gives me further proof that Google penalizes sites for no reason (at least no accurate reason) whatsoever and thus the poor results.

  59. Translation: your site ranked there and not in Google, so it’s “better”.

  60. “I get a warning exclamation point and this message:

    Use caution in providing any personal information or downloading software on

    I’m not a spyware/phishing site, and my site has been around for over a year. So with a sample size of one, how accurate is that data? Not very.”

    Yeah it sucks when an algorithm pigeon-holes your hard work wrong with no recourse and no feedback. Sound familiar to anyone?

  61. I guess, I should re-design and re-assure for my websites. According to, none of them are trust worthy and reliable. It warns everyone not to use personal info on those sites. seems to me as mix of IE7 and yahoo.

  62. Alexa is the single most useless item in the seo-sphere. So if Compete replaces Alexa, that’s good. On the other hand, it’s still no substitute for [b]facts[/b].

    This whole sector has a long way to go before it really has much value to offer, but a small step is better than no progress at all. And almost anything is better than Alexa.

  63. So at the risk of going against the trend – we use Alexa as well. Hey, we know it’s not the actual stats – that’s why we’ve got three other providers (based on logs) plus Google analytics as well – and they don’t even agree between them.

    But what it does do is allow us to compare ourselves with competitor sites – and yes that includes a lot of assumptions on things like browser, platform etc. But as we are not in a techie (well not that sort of techie) environment, I don’t care that Webmasterworld is number 233, or what percentage of our visitors use some exotic SEO professionals only browser. But I do care if our competitor sites go up.

    Alexa or Compete absolute numbers are rubbish – but trends on these sites are pretty informative. And until I get access to my competitors’ log files, these sort of sites are all we have.

  64. Great, a company I work for is listed with a nice yellow “Use caution in providing any personal information or downloading software on whateverthey’” that’s charming. LOL

    And then further digging explains that the yellow caution symbol means they’re “currently rated *Neutral* due to a lack of information to qualify the site as trusted.”

    Well, after surviving the bubble burst and another 6 years of paying everyone on time I’d say they can be trusted 😀

  65. Matt,

    Same experience as yours. We have an informational site with no downloads or spyware and get the same cautionary rating. C’mon Compete, get real! Unless you count Google analytics code on the site as an invasion of privacy 😉

  66. Brian its not the question of security, its for the security of visitors

  67. Compete seems to do a good job actually! I am not talking about their search engine part of course, that is less the accurate. I am referring to their feature. I think they capture the FatFront of the long tail very well. Their sample size is big enough to rule out webmaster bias. I find it rather refreshing because the only other source of completive analysis is Alexa data. But could enough webmasters download the Compete toolbar and pollute the data like Alexa rankings do?

    As a top 200 Alexa site DomainTools is rather high. But we rank at 31,940 in Compete. So I can safely say their sample set must be non-technical users. Just like in real life (outside work) I would assume only 1 of out 100 people use our service. The Alexa data is polluted with Webmasters and not enough real users. Yes they have a few. But I think it is because webmasters install the Alexa toolbar on their girl-friends computers.

    Matt, you remember this post, “Second, there is some serious webmaster skew in the Alexa data. There is no way that I have 1/4th the daily reach of Ask. I think my site gets a little boost because tons of SEOs install the Alexa toolbar.” –

    Well, in contrast take a look at

    This sort of proves it, Compete is way better then Alexa data.

    Now, if only Google would release the Google Toolbar comparative graphs. 🙂 I think that would be killer.

  68. Lawrence Coburn you hit the nail right on the head. Unless websites are actually turning in md5 generated reports from trusted traffic trackers, the stats are useless. They only represent a small portion of internet users that install the toolbar or that live in the purchased ISP’s areas.

    No one else sees a problem with Compete buying ISP data? I mean doesn’t this scare anyone that they can purchase this personal information? It boggles my mind to think that this data is up for sale. Talk about getting a lot for a little, no matter how much they pay.

  69. Matt, your post reminded me to email Google and tell them to allow sites to opt into showing our traffic data publicly. I feel confident that my email landed at the bottom strata of a tall pile, but it felt good to click Send anyway. If Google doesn’t start making analytics data public, I’ll put my hopes into Quantcast. I just fear that they’ll fade quickly if they don’t find a lot of exposure quickly.

    I have a website dedicated to bargain shopping and Compete shows us as having no “deals” – even though we post 21 deals daily. I searched Compete for other deal sites and large merchants and realized that a “deal” exists only when has an affiliate-paid coupon for that site. Ha! How very weak. As for traffic accuracy, their numbers are off for our site but the trends are pretty close. Alexa is ludicrously off in numbers and in trends.

  70. Alexa & compete both are claiming what they are not at all. Is it possible to rate the web they way they are doing. NO!

    Compete is using Overture, which is not as credible as Google.

    If there would be something it would be from Google end.

  71. I totally agree with Fargham, claiming as untrustworthy is reason enough to deem this tool uncredible in my opinion. I mean what must a webmaster do in order to be trustworthy by Compete’s criteria?

  72. Nice info, but i am wondering how to increase the compete rank because many ad networks have started to consider it along with Alexa rank, i know Alexa rank is the traffic rank but i am not sure what exactly is compete rank. I think its the website rank compared to other websites in similar niche or where your websites stands in competition, hence compete rank? that might sound silly but please excuse.